Resolutions vs Goals – Starting the New Year Right

Did You Already Fail Your New Year’s Resolution? If you did, that’s okay. I mean, it’s barely February, month 2 of 12, and you’ve already flopped at cutting out soda, going to the gym every day and limiting your Netflix binging to an episode per day. The fact that 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail by February may or may not offer you comfort, but the truth is that you were set up to fail.

New Year’s resolutions are resolutions. You’re resolving to do (or not do) something. The word resolve might have to do with determination and persistence for some, but the concept of failure is not something we pair with resolutions. Resolving to eat healthy leaves no room for that day we sleep in instead of running or that delicious slice of cake that taunts you as you jog past a tempting bakery. When you resolve to do something, you’re not allowed to fail. Resolutions are an all-or-nothing gamble. And to make it worse, you’re not even betting on yourself. You’re betting on a stable and consistent year, with no unexpected twists or obstacles, and personally, I’d fold.


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As bleak as it sounds, the odds are against you. Statistically and psychologically. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

If you failed your 2019 New Year’s resolution(s), chances are you’re done. Done with the 6 a.m. alarm, done with the eight cups of water, done with pushing yourself to the point of breaking. Ignoring the disappointment, you’re a little relieved. You tried. It’s all over now.

But why should it be over? We’re addicted to this endless cycle of writing resolutions for a new year, burning ourselves out within the first month, and then lazing around for the rest of the year, only to scribble down the same goals for the next year. If that’s a tradition you enjoy, that’s fine. But what if you actually want to improve yourself?

Stop writing resolutions. Set goals instead.


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Unlike resolutions, goals give you room to be human. If your goal is to train for a marathon, you’re allowed to skip one day of exercise. You’re allowed to stuff your face full of cookies at 1 a.m. when you can’t sleep. You aren’t a failure for it. You just keep going at it.

My high school had quarters, and four times a year we dragged our feet to homeroom to begrudgingly fill out a goals worksheet that we all thought was a waste of time. We had to set two goals: one academic and one personal/work-related. And it wasn’t just the goals we had to write, they made us outline the timeframe, anticipate obstacles and difficulties, list resources we could turn to for help – the whole shebang.

And in hindsight, this behavior of goal-setting forced onto us eventually trained my brain to set goals, despite the fact that I would write things like, “To get at least a 90% in anthropology, I need to get a 90% in anthropology :).” The planner I own, a beautiful kitschy Pipsticks+Workman one that I absolutely adore, has a section for writing monthly goals. Periodically, I scribble my academic goals on post-it notes that I leave all around my work area.  


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For me, goals and resolutions are wildly different. But the issues I have with writing resolutions can also be the flaws of goals. Here’s a piece of advice I received from one of the daily texts Shine sends me to brighten up and help me start my day right:

Add self-compassion to your goals.

The Shine text I received on Jan. 1 linked me to “A Note From Our Founders: 2019 Is Your Year to Hustle with Heart,” and below is what that means:

“It’s time for a new approach to goal-getting, and we’re calling it Hustle With Heart. What it means: Hustling, but with self-kindness when things inevitably get off track. With self-forgiveness when plans need to be changed. With self-soothing when that inner critic fires up to try and shame you into success. And to help you commit to it, we created a Hustle With Heart Manifesto. It’s a simple five-rule manifesto, which you can save, (digitally) sign, and share to help others approach their 2019 goals with self-compassion, too.”


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In 2019, write goals, not resolutions. And remember to practice self-compassion.


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